To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Decanter World Wine Awards, we're profiling a number of this year's judges, who are some of the world's most renowned wine experts. Our 'Meet the Judges' interview series offers a rare insight into the world of wine and judging from the key industry experts choosing this year's best wines.
Danny Cameron has a varied background within the wine trade – from his experience as a sommelier to currently fulfilling the role of Managing Director of the Big Fortified Tasting – read about what he’s currently drinking at home and what wines he thinks should be given more attention in 2013.
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you based and where do you work?
I live in beautiful North Yorkshire, but spend plenty of time elsewhere. I’m a Director of Portuguese specialist Raymond Reynolds Ltd, Managing Director of the Big Fortified Tasting and Chairman of the Association of Portuguese Wine Importers. I also have a small consultancy business, with clients including England’s extraordinary Gusbourne Estate.
Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?
I studied Hotel Management before apprenticing at the Cafe Royal (which then had a magnificent cellar), and later spent time both as a sommelier and in hotel management. In an attempt to cut down my (working) hours from 100 a week to just about 80, I became a partner in an independent wine merchant.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working in the wine industry?
That it’s a privilege to work in a trade where 99.9% of the people are open, honest and lovely to work with.
Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?
The first Food and Beverage Manager I worked with, who opened bottles of classed growth Claret, Grand Cru Burgundy and top Champagnes like they were water, before the top brass found out and ‘moved him on’. Not a great inspiration for business, but it clarified where my true passion was in the hospitality industry.
In printed form, Kermit Lynch’s Adventures on the Wine Route and Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine were also, and for very different reasons, truly inspirational reading.
What are your most memorable wine moments from the last ten years?
Possibly not for the right reasons, but when the UK closed its airspace in the days preceding the first ever Big Fortified Tasting due to the volcano in Iceland, they were most certainly memorable. But equally, when we pulled it off on the day, despite various winemakers being stuck on all continents, this is something I’ll never forget.
Which kinds of wines do you think should be given more attention in 2013?
The easy answers would be to explore fortified wines – they enjoy a remarkable price-to-quality ratio – and the wonderful options from Portugal. But off my more typical piste, we should be giving more credit to the diversity of Riesling within Germany: the Rheingau and the Ruwer are not the same!
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
Some Pinot Noirs I brought back from Baden a couple of years ago, and are now just coming into their own.
What’s your desert island wine?
I don’t believe there is a single wine in the world which isn’t made better by being served in good company, so I’d stick with water and open the best bottles with family and friends when I got back.
What single piece of advice do you have for people just starting out in wine?
Don’t try to do it for money as you’ll almost certainly be able to earn more in another line of work. So do it for a love of wine, and the joyous social nature of the trade. Also, never forget that there is a time to analyse wine, and a time to enjoy it.
When judging, what are you looking for in great wine?
Balance, freshness and a sense that however many times you go back to it, it always has a bit more to give.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
Seeing a few faces I don’t tend to see at other times of the year, and judging with people whose standards are exceptionally high.
Written by Decanter.com